Campaign photo showsBush with Jack Abramoff
WASHINGTON -- A liberal watchdog group published on its Web site Monday a picture of President Bush and imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the kind of photo the White House has refused to release. The picture was taken at a campaign fundraiser in December 2003, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. It was taken by a private photo contractor who posted it on a Web site, but then was removed before it made it into distribution, said Melanie Sloan, CREW's director. A previous photo of Bush and the disgraced lobbyist surfaced last year but Abramoff was in the background, slightly blurry. "This is the one they didn't want you to see," Sloan said. Kim Eisler, Washingtonian magazine writer and a friend of Abramoff's, confirmed the photo's authenticity for The Associated Press. He said he had seen the picture at Abramoff's house.
Fire erupts in Malibu
MALIBU, Calif. -- A wildfire fanned by Santa Ana winds destroyed eight seaside mansions and damaged five others Monday as it spread over more than 10 acres in this celebrity enclave, authorities said. Flames boiled furiously out of the skeletons of million-dollar beach homes as palm trees bent in winds blowing at 21 mph. More than 300 firefighters battled the blaze at West Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon Road, said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Ron Haralson. The blaze erupted about 5 p.m. Residents were being evacuated on the west end of the canyon road, Sheriff's Sgt. John Hocking said. TV news helicopters shot scenes of flames blowing down seaside slopes toward shoreline homes. Winds appeared to be blowing the fire toward the ocean. "It's so windy out there, it's kind of scary," said Roberto Cardenas, an employee at Coogies Beach Cafe.
Health-care spendingslowed down in 2005
WASHINGTON -- Health-care spending grew in 2005 at the slowest pace in six years thanks in part to a greater reliance on generic drugs. Health spending went up 6.9 percent in 2005, approaching 2 trillion. That represents about 1 out of every 6 spent in the U.S., compared with about 1 out of every 10 in the early 1980s. Private and public payers for health care, such as insurers, states and the federal government, have said such a spending pattern cannot be sustained without harming the economy. Some of the tools they've put in place to slow health-care spending appear to have had an impact. The slower growth in 2005 is good news for consumers and taxpayers, but economists aren't confident that the trend will last. Richard Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said there is a growing demand for expensive lifesaving equipment and procedures.
Agriculturists set trapsfor killer bees in Louisiana
ARABI, La. -- The residents of flood-damaged St. Bernard Parish, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, have a new concern: killer bees. Agriculturists began setting traps around a half-mile radius of a storm-wrecked home Monday that authorities have confirmed was infested with aggressive Africanized honey bees. The hybrids first drove away contractors hired to tear the house down. Then they drove off beekeepers called in to catch them. Finally, mosquito workers killed the bees. The state agriculture department confirmed in late December that they were hybrids with the aggressive African strain, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Bob Odom said. The traps are to determine if more Africanized bees are lurking in the area. "So far, this is an isolated find in the New Orleans area," Odom said.
Odor causes concern inManhattan, New Jersey
NEW YORK -- They bombarded 911 with calls, crowded the sidewalks in front of evacuated buildings and tuned to the news for word of what was happening. The question on the minds of many New Yorkers on Monday morning was: "What's that smell?" A natural gas-like odor hung over much of Manhattan and parts of New Jersey, confounding authorities. The smell seemed to be gone by early afternoon. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there was no indication the air was unsafe. "It may just be an unpleasant smell," he said. He said sensors did not show an unusually high concentration of natural gas, and the city's major utility company reported that it found no gas leaks. The mayor said the smell may have been caused by a leak of a substance called mercaptan that is added to natural gas for safety reasons to give it a recognizable odor.
Package at Miami port washarmless, authorities say
MIAMI -- The Port of Miami was hit by its second terrorism scare in two days Monday when a package that was to be loaded onto a cruise ship tested positive for plastic explosives. Authorities later determined it was just a box of sprinkler parts. The package was initially tested six times, and each time it came back positive for the military-grade explosive known as C4, the Coast Guard said. The package was destroyed, and a Miami-Dade County police bomb squad determined the sprinkler parts contained a substance that "closely resembles" plastic explosives, said police spokesman Bobby Williams. Williams said the instruments used to test the package sometimes give false positives.
U.S. sub collides with ship
TOKYO -- A U.S. nuclear submarine and Japanese merchant ship collided in the Arabian Sea, the U.S. Navy and Japan's Kyodo News agency said today. The Navy said the accident occurred late Monday night local time and that neither vessel reported any injuries or serious damages. Kyodo said U.S. officials passed the information on the crash to Japan's Foreign Ministry shortly after 4 a.m. today. Officials at Japan's Defense Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they did not have any information on the report.
Man sentenced to prisonfor aiding 9/11 hijackers
HAMBURG, Germany -- During an anguished exchange in a German courtroom Monday, an American whose mother was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks said he forgave a Moroccan convicted of aiding the hijackers. But the victim's son, Dominic Puopolo Jr., rebuked the defendant, Mounir el Motassadeq, for complaining that the accusations had "ruined" his life. "Your life is not over, but my mom's is," Puopolo told el Motassadeq in an emotional exchange just before a state court in Hamburg imposed the 15-year sentence, the maximum under German law.
Associated Press

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